Agia Sophia - Ayasofya, Istanbul

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  • nicolaitan's Profile Photo

    Church of the Holy Wisdom

    by nicolaitan Updated Feb 8, 2009

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    The Hagia Sophia honors the Holy Wisdom of God ( not a saint named Sophia ) and is another of Istanbul's treasured sacred buildings. Like so many churches, it occupies a site previously used for two Christian churches and preceding pagan and presumably Greek temples. Following the burning of the second church during a riot in 532, it took only a few days before Emperor Justinian I commissioned a third and more majestic church constructed between 532-7 by two architects who were geometry professors at the University of Constantinople, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus. Forty years would pass before completion of the many famed mosaics. It is considered the greatest surviving example of Byzantine architecture and was the largest cathedral in the world till the completion of the cathedral in Seville in 1520. Several damaging earthquakes required restorations over the next century, which included raising the dome to its current height of 60 meters and placement of exterior flying buttresses ( image 2 ).

    Further alterations over the next 600 years followed earthquakes and fires particularly in the 9th C and even more damaging the iconoclastic period of the 8th C when many images and sacred objects were destroyed. In 1204, the church was looted by the armies of the 4th Crusade, with many objects removed to among other cities Venice. More than any other event, this incursion made permanent the separation of the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches. Despite all these obstacles, the Hagia Sophia remained the center of Orthodox Catholicism and home church for the Orthodox Patriarch until 1453.

    The Ottoman capture of Istanbul in 1453 led to the immediate conversion of the Hagia Sophia to a mosque by Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, amazed at the beauty of the church. It would remain the imperial mosque for 500 years, the Ayasofia. Initial changes included addition of a minbar and mihrab and the plastering over of all the mosaics as Islam forbid worship of human figures. The only major structural changes were made by the Swiss Fossati brothers from 1847-9 who most importantly uncovered and catalogued the mosaics before recovering them in plaster. They would remain hidden until after the secularization of the church as a museum in 1934 by Turkish president Kemal Ataturk, who renamed the church as the Ayasofia Museum. Most of the restorations have been since 1993 under the auspices of UNESCO.

    The magnificent dome and minarets of the Hagia Sofia ( image 1 ) have been the model for many later Turkish mosques including the Sultan Ahmet and Rustem Pasa mosques, one of the defining features of the Istanbul cityscape.

    The first church on this site was built by Constantine the Great, but nothing is believed to remain. The second church was ordered by Theodosius II and completed in 415. It would burn to the ground in 532. - in the garden adjacent the tourist exit, there are many marble blocks ( image 5 ) from this church, most believed to have been part of a massive front entrance ( image 4), and not rediscovered until excavations of 1935. Of particular interest is image 3, which is part of a relief depicting 12 lambs believed to represent the 12 apostles.

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    Aya Sofya

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 9, 2004

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    Aya Sofya (Hagia Sofia) is today a museum which attracts many visitors each day. Be there early if you want to have at least some time with few visitors. I arrived about 15 minutes after nine (openingtime). After another 15 minutes the tourgroups started to arrive, one after the other.
    Hagia Sofia - The Church of Divine Visdom was built by emperor Justinianus and inaugerated year 537. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453 it was turned into a mosque.
    Aya Sofya is an architectural masterpiece.

    Entance fee is 15 000 000 TL.
    The museum is opened Tuesday - Sunday
    and open at 9 o'clock.

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    Hagia Sophia

    by traveloturc Updated Apr 8, 2007

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    Haghia Sophia Mosque & Complex is located in Sultanahmet across from Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Considered one of the finest architectural works in the world, it was originally built as a church. Construction began during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Constantine I, but was only completed in AD 360 during the reign of Constantine II.The first Haghia Sophia was partially burnt during an uprising. It was repaired by Theodosius II and opened to worship in 415, but was burned to the ground during another public uprising in 532. The structure standing today is that which was built as a church by Justinian.Despite the changes, its essence remains untouched. Haghia Sophia experienced its darkest days during the Latin occupation; it was looted, damaged and a number of its valuable furnishings were removed and taken to the churchs of Europe. It was then badly damaged in the earthquake of 1344 in which parts of it, including a section of the dome, collapsed. Immediately following the conquest of the city, Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror went directly to Haghia Sophia. But it was in ruins. He decided on that day to convert the church to a mosque, and thus a new period began for Haghia Sophia.From the first day it became a mosque, Haghia Mosque bacame a place of enormous significiance of Moslims living within the borders of the Ottoman Empire, as well as others. For hundred of years it has symbolised and been a reminder of the conquest of Istanbul.
    Haghia Sophia was shown special attention after the conquest. One minaret was added by Sultan Bayezid II and a second by Sultan Selim II. Sultan Mahmud I added a reservoir for ablutions, a primary school, a soup kitchen, a library, a chamber for sultans and a mosque niche. During this period a number of sultans and members of royalty were buried in the complex. They include: Sultan Selim II, Sultan Murad III, Sultan Mehmed III, Sultan Mustafa I and Sultan Ibrahim.

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    Hagia Sophia II

    by traveloturc Written Jan 3, 2007

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    Haghia Sophia underwent minor repairs during the Republican period, but was left relatively alone during the war years. American scientists obtained permission from the Turkish government to uncover the mosaics in 1932. While these works were underway, without any legal decree, Haghia Sophia was changed to a museum in 1934 and opened to the public in 1935. This mosque presently functions as a museum.
    The dome of the mosque, believed to represent the infinity of the cosmos, its most impressive. To think that this dome was built in the 530's contributes even more to the importance of the mosque. Despite being damaged, the mosaics found within Haghia Sophia are among the most precious in the world. The additions of the Ottomans, far from spoiling its original beauty, have only reinforced its magnificiance. The calligraphies, on plates 7.5 meters in diameter, the stone work, which gives it a lace-like appearance, and the glazed tiles are all priceless. The primary school, tombs, foundations and reservoir which make up the complex are also of major significance from an architectural standpoint.

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    Inside Aya Sofya

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 9, 2004

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    The interior is impressive with a dome 56 metres high. It is a heavy building and it has been reinforced several times. In Aya Sofya there are many golden Byzantine mosaics.

    In the picture is the mimber (pulpit in a mosque). On top of the columns are huge discs, with Arabic scripts, hanging.

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    Hagia Sophia

    by fouads Written Apr 25, 2007

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    it was a great church but in Ottoman period changed into mosque for about
    700 years but they left it,s beautyfull paint,s and arts on walls and it still be one
    of the greatest marvels of architecture after it,s changed to a moseum
    note it close on monday

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    Hagia Sophia

    by mvtouring Updated Oct 9, 2009

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    The Church of the Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia (¢ãéá Óïößá) in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Ayasofya or Aya Sofya in Turkish, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. which was commissioned by Emperor Justinian. The original church was openend in Dec 537, covering an area of 7570 square meters it was then the grandest building in the world. It was destroyed by an earthquake twenty years later. It was rebuilt and completed in 563.
    Now a museum, Hagia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world. I found this place extremely interesting and full of history. Unfortunately nothing remains of the original Hagia Sophia, which was built on this site in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Constantine was the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called "the New Rome." The Hagia Sophia was one of several great churches he built in important cities throughout his empire.
    It is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture, rich with mosaics and marble pillars and coverings. After completion, Justinian is said to have exclaimed, ÍåíßêçêÜ óå Óïëïìþí ("Solomon, I have outdone thee!").
    The architects of the church were Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, who were professors of geometry at the University of Constantinople. Their work was a technical triumph, even though the structure was severely damaged several times by earthquakes. The original dome collapsed after an earthquake in 558 and its replacement fell in 563. Steps were taken to better secure the dome, but there were additional partial collapses in 989 and 1346.
    For over 900 years the Hagia Sophia was the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople and a principal setting for church councils and imperial ceremonies.
    In 1204 the cathedral was ruthlessly attacked, desecrated and plundered by the Crusaders, who also ousted the Patriarch of Constantinople and replaced him with a Latin bishop. This event cemented the division of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches that had begun with the Great Schism of 1054. It also means that most of Hagia Sophia's riches can be seen today not in Istanbul, but in the treasury of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice.
    Despite this violent setback, Hagia Sophia remained a functioning church until May 29, 1453, when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror entered triumphantly into the city of Constantinople. He was amazed at the beauty of the Hagia Sophia and immediately converted it into his imperial mosque. Hagia Sophia served as the principal mosque of Istanbul for almost 500 years. It became a model for many of the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul such as the Blue Mosque, the Suleiman Mosque, the Shehzade Mosque and the Rustem Pasha Mosque.
    No major structural changes were made at first; the addition of a mihrab (prayer niche), minbar (pulpit) and a wooden minaret made a mosque out of the church. At some early point, all the faces depicted in the church's mosaics were covered in plaster due to the Islamic prohibition of figurative imagery. Various additions were made over the centuries by successive sultans.
    There are several interesting things to see outside Hagia Sophia, including three mausoleums of sultans, the church's baptistery, and the excavated remains of Theodosius' Hagia Sophia.

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    Hagia Sophia - Justinian’s Church

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 7, 2009

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    Emperor Justinian I took the decision to build a third and entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors.
    It was the largest Cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years.
    On the exterior, simple stuccoed walls reveal the clarity of massed vaults and domes. The yellow and red colour of the exterior was added by the architect Fossati during the restorations in the 19th century.

    You can watch my 3 min 08 sec HQ Video Istanbul Hagia Sophia part III out of my Youtube channel with Greek Orthodox Christian Byzantine Music - CHRISTOS ANESTI.

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    An example of religious tolerance

    by muratkorman Updated Mar 8, 2010

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    Hagia Sofia (Ayasofya) was built in 537 as a church and after Fatih Sultan Mehmet conquered Istanbul in 1453, it was transformed into a mosque. However, the interior wasn't destroyed. This is an example of religious tolerance because Ottomans respected other religions and they didn't force non-muslims to convert their religion or treated them badly. There were many non-muslims very effective in the empire and this continued till the end of empire. Some reinforcements had to be made to the building after centuries weakened the foundations. Great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan made the reinforcements and additional minarets in 1577. The building has become a museum in 1935 after being used as a mosque for almost 5 centuries. It was visited by Pope Benedict on his Istanbul visit.

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    Hagia Sophia.

    by Tdiver Updated May 31, 2006

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    Built for the Emperor Justinian I in A.D. 537 and consecrated by the Patriarch Menas on December 27th,it took only six years to build.
    Designed by Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus.
    May 7th A.D. 558 the dome collapsed due to an earthquake the previous December.Anew dome was hurredly rebuilt although not quite the same as the original.
    Church measures 260 x 270 feet.Dome is 210 ft high and has a diameter of 110 ft.
    Nave is 135 ft wide,aisles 62 ft.
    Converted into a Mosque in 1453 when Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror seized Byzantium.
    Remained a Mosque until 1935 when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk converted it into a museum.
    Open every day except Monday, 09.30-16.30
    Unsure as to the current entrance fee but think it's around $7

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    Haghia Sophia (Aya Sofya)

    by AcornMan Written Mar 25, 2004

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    Haghia Sophia seen from the southwest

    Built more than 1,400 years ago, the "Church of Holy Wisdon", or Haghia Sophia, was inaugurated by Emperor Justinian in 537 AD. In the 15th Century the Ottoman conquerers of Constantinople converted it into a mosque by adding minarets, tombs, fountains, and other modifications. But despite the forced conversion, a substantial amount of the original Christian theme was left undisturbed, including some of the most elaborate and best preserved Byzantine mosaics still in existence. Althouth most date from the 9th century, some of the patterned mosaic ceilings are part of the cathedrals original 6th century design.

    Haghia Sophia no longer functions as an active mosque and is instead a devoted museum. Tourists must therefore may a nominal entry fee (15,000,000 TL when we visited), but it is well worth the price.

    I have posted additional pictures in my travelogue so you can see the interior too.

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    Hagia Sophia

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 7, 2009

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    Hagia Sophia has several names and was used in several purposes during its long-long life. Its name grows from the Greek with the same pronunciation, in Turkish it is named Ayasofya, which are translated in English as "Holy Wisdom". Many people think that its name grows from the woman name Sophia - but it’s a mistake! It was a Greek Orthodox Basilica for a long time, later for several centuries it was a mosque, now for 75 years it is a museum. Hagia Sophia or Holy Wisdom is the mother church of all Eastern Christians of the Byzantine liturgical tradition both Orthodox and Greek Catholic.
    If Istanbul had only one attraction - Hagia Sophia even then it was worth visiting! I’d like Hagia Sophia has its own destination on VT because it’s the real Wonder of the World!

    You can watch my 3 min 02 sec HQ Video Istanbul Hagia Sophia part I out of my Youtube channel with Greek Orthodox Christian Byzantine Music in Hagia Sophia by Kabarnos.

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    Hagia Sophia Museum - Aya Sophia Muzesi

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 7, 2009

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    It remained as a mosque until 1935, when it was converted into a museum by the Republic of Turkey.
    In 1935, the first Turkish President and founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, transformed the building into a museum. The carpets were removed and the marble floor decorations appeared for the first time in centuries, while the white plaster covering the mosaics was painstakingly removed by expert restorers.

    The museum is open between 09:00 - 16:30 except on Mondays, with longer opening hours during the summer months (09:00 - 19:30 though the upper gallery closes at 7 p.m.).
    The ticket office is on the southwest corner of the complex.

    Admission: 20 YTL

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    Hagia Sophia’s Dome

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 7, 2009

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    Hagia Sophia is famous in particular for its massive dome. It is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture.
    It has a maximum diameter about 31 meters and a height from floor level about 56 meters. The dome seems rendered weightless by the unbroken arcade of 40 arched windows under it, which help flood the colorful interior with light.
    At the western (entrance) and eastern (liturgical) ends, the arched openings are extended by half domes carried on smaller semi-domed exedras.

    The giant weight of the dome was a problem since ancient time. After new cracks had developed in the dome after the earthquake several parts of the building collapsed. The problem was solved by adding buttresses from the outside. The four buttresses were probably built in the 14th century.
    Some people think they spoiled the impression of the building but they stopped the damage.

    You may watch my high resolution photo of Istanbul on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 41° 0' 29.58" N 28° 58' 44.69" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Hagia Sophia’s Butresses .

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    Hagia Sophia’s Imperial Gate

    by Kuznetsov_Sergey Written May 7, 2009

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    You will find the main entrance into the Hagia Sophia in the middle of the eastern side of the courtyard. Once you enter the building, cross the outer narthex and go into the inner narthex to the central Imperial Entrance, over which you'll see the mosaic of Christ Pantocrator.

    The mosaic presents the connection between the church and the empire and the church as the seat of imperial ritual.The Imperial Gate was the main entrance between the exo- and esonarthex. It was reserved only for the emperor.
    The mosaic tops the imperial entrance to the Hagia Sophia's interior. Christ is holding a book with the inscription "Peace be with you. I am the Light of the World."
    Christ is surrounded by roundels portraying the Virgin Mary and the angel Gabriel.
    At Christ's feet is a bearded emperor, who is believed to represent Leo VI asking for forgiveness for his four marriages. The mosaic dates to between 886 and 912 AD, which is the reign of Leo.

    You may watch my high resolution photo of Istanbul on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 41° 0' 31.09" N 28° 58' 47.08" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Christ with Leo .

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